Inspiring Women Meet the first person to ski the seven summits

Kit DeslauriersKit Deslauriers is the first person to ski the seven summits, a The North Face athlete, and amazing ski mountaineer. I caught up with her the other day and here is what she had to say.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself: Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what life is like now, what’s important to you?
I’m a skier, and really a mountain lover of all sorts, with a deep love for backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. I’ve been a member of The North Face athlete team since 2005 (?!) and lived in Teton Village, WY since 2000.  In 2006 I skied off the top of Mt. Everest which was the last mountain in my project to be the first person to ski the Seven Summits but I’ve also skied from some much more obscure peaks, like Mt. Aspiring in New Zealand and Mt. Belukha in Siberia which was where I met my husband, Rob.  Now we [sic] are raising our two daughters to have a profound (we hope!) appreciation for the natural world while also letting them be their own unique selves.  It’s important to me that kids these days have a sense of feeling comfortable and welcome in the outdoor world, this should always feel like their home.
2) It’s November, and there is already a couple feet of snow on the ground in the Tetons.  After so many winters and summers of skiing, do you still get excited for skiing when the snow starts to fly?
I LOVE TO SKI!  Although I will say that my approach to early season skiing was tempered many years ago by snapping a ski pole on a buried tree in the steep woods above my former home in Ophir, CO which made me realize that it just as easily could have been my tib/fib at no fault of my own.  So in the early month or so of late autumn skiing, I tend to focus on ski fitness, elk hunting, and even a family trip to the beach where I keep up on my beginning intermediate surf skills. Then I hit the skiing with passion around the 1st of December and I’m reminded how much I love skiing more than anything else!  I keep this feeling straight through mid-June as I love climbing and skiing the high peaks in spring conditions as much as I love powder skiing.
3) How do you prepare for the ski season? Do you use a gear checklist for your first outings?
A physical checklist for my first ski outings of the season would be a good idea, but these days I just have it in my head. My habit of packing the night before does help though. I never go out without a first aid kit and part of my every other year preparation is to recertify my Wilderness First Responder in October or November so I did that about a month ago.  It’s my strong belief that we should all be able to step up in the case of an emergency.  I also practice with my beacon and even if I didn’t ski during the first storms of the season, I was diligently studying the snowpack and making observations that I’ll be able to recall throughout the year.
4) What are your strategies for skiing early season?
My strategies for early season skiing revolve around safety and conservative decision making. It honestly takes me a bit to get re-familiarized with my comfort level in the risk assessment process of backcountry skiing so I will head out for low hanging fruit first to get my systems back in place. Also, I don’t hold back on training just because it’s ski season.  Since I’m cautious early on, I’m usually not throwing myself into long days so I need to keep upping my fitness level until I get into that full on winter mode when it largely takes care of itself.  Core fitness is my personal love lately, as I’ve been learning to go uphill from my glutes and abs which takes fatigue off from quads and hip flexors.  Some of these tricks we have to figure out as we get older!
5) How do you stay sharp and make good decisions in avalanche terrain?
I literally make notes to myself in my calendar to study my snow science since otherwise I wouldn’t do it. One of the things I love most about making decisions in avalanche terrain is how it puts me in touch with honest, open communication and reminds me of my humility. I get scared of wind, for instance, as I’ve had a bad experience with how it can quickly form a slab avalanche so I pay careful attention to the recent direction of wind, amount of wind, and am comfortable backing away from that hazard when I see it. Last spring I was up and out the door at 3 am many mornings, but we didn’t have great freezing temps overnight in the Tetons so the snowpack didn’t have the stability I wanted and I often just went back to bed. It’s important to know your comfort level and then have metrics to gauge it against.  Of course, it’s also important not to give in to the ‘monkey mind’ if it’s not a realistic concern. That translates to going for big objectives whenever they line up!
 
6) What advise do you have for women skiers and riders new to the backcountry?
Get training and experience and then be compassionate with yourself as it’s a process.  If you really love it like I do, then the backcountry is a lifelong friend and you should treat it as such.  Sometimes you and that friend will go on a really long expedition together, but more often than not it’s a quick lunch date or coffee break and those moments nurture your relationship, too.  We all have the ability to become really good at the things we love.
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